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Genital Herpes

Are you excited by the prospect of a reckless love affair, a passionate one-night stand or a whirlwind romance? Then you should also be prepared to catch herpes.

Although the Herpes simplex virus Type I (HSV-1) can cause an unsightly cold sore on your lip, the Type II (HSV-2) virus is much worse -- typically producing a painful rash on your genitals within a week of exposure. Islands of tiny blisters erode into painful ulcers that last for weeks, lymph nodes in the groin swell and become painful. You may experience back pain and flue-like symptoms. But the worst news is still ahead -- after the infection subsides, the virus takes up permanent residence in your local nerves. For the rest of your life, you will experience minor relapses in which small patches of blisters recur -- ensuring that the virus can continue to spread itself to new partners, and that you will continue to experience the psychological devastation of knowing your sex life has been forever changed. In fact, the worst part of the illness is frequently the depression and social isolation that results from realizing you are a HSV-2 carrier, a secret you will eventually have to reveal to any sexual partner you care about.

The HSV-2 infects over 16% of Americans between the ages of 14 and 49 -- meaning that after having intimate contact with six people, you are likely to have encountered the virus. Among certain social groups, over half can be infected. Most HSV-2 carriers have no idea that they are infectious, adding a certain Russian roulette quality to your sexual
adventures. It won't cheer you up to learn that HSV-2 also triples your risk of catching
the deadly HIV virus that causes AIDS.

Although the virus can't be cured, anti-viral drugs like acyclovir will eliminate two-thirds of your misery, and will limit shedding of the virus during episodes of recurrence, which should become fewer in years ahead. HSV-2 will force you choose your sexual partners thoughtfully and try to keep stable relationships -- but that's good advise for anyone. And if you don't have Herpes -- offer your prospective partner a tactful opportunity to reveal any embarrassing secrets. The best romance is always founded on honesty.

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